Toronto
3 min

Five little gay boys take revenge

Quips whip het men into shape

YOU BE THE JEUGE. Are Ted Allen, Kyan Douglas (top), Jai Rodriguez, Carson Kressley and Thom Felica sissy stereotypes or oggling oracles? Credit: Xtra files

Queer Eye For the Straight Guy arrives in Canada trailing reams of media buzz, most of it concerning its alleged perpetuation of some seriously sissy stereotypes. And it’s certainly true that our five heroes, collectively known as the Fab Five, are a bunch of flaming homos. Supposedly picked for their expertise in grooming, fashion, food, home décor and culture, they seem more at home with the Hollywood hug and the bitchy quip. Not to mention names that wouldn’t be out of place in a bad soap opera.



Every week Carson (fashion), Kyan (grooming), Ted (food), Thom (décor) and Jai (culture) invade some poor straight guy’s home and bitch slap him into submission. They sneer at his furniture, root about in his closet and throw out his “toiletries.” One week, Carson even sniffed a guy’s dirty jockstrap. In short, they act like the guests from hell, determined to dig up your deepest insecurities. It’s like watching five little gay boys take revenge on the straight world for all the humiliations they suffered in grade school – and it’s really quite funny, especially the opening where they charge into their victim’s house like Charlie’s Angels on a rampage.



But after the initial ego demolition, the show turns into a standard makeover series except that the makeover is a little more extensive than usual. The straight guy gets a new wardrobe, a new haircut, a redecorated house, some trendy recipes and some blindingly obvious tips on how to handle the give and take of an upcoming social occasion – a gallery opening, a birthday dinner, or a romantic rendezvous with a girlfriend.



In week one, the victim is an artist cum set decorator who hasn’t cut his hair in nine years. In week two, it’s a chubby Jewish guy who’s new to the idea of waxing his brows. Both of them thank our heroes for their help with a genuineness that bespeaks a religious conversion.



But it’s the gay guys who are the attraction here and they each have their own role to play. Bravo is airing the full-length, hour-long version of the show (not the shortened versions that appeared on NBC this past summer) and the longer length gives the boys’ personalities more room to breath. Jai is the eye candy, Thom is the worker bee and Ted is clearly the intellectual. (He takes his black truffles and kosher foie gras very seriously.)



My favourite is Kyan, the grooming guy, because he’s cute and earnest and he tackles the most trivial topics with the blinkered sincerity of a social worker. “Don’t forget your pre-shave gel,” he tells the jolly hairy guy who is the subject of episode two.



But the star of the show is clearly Carson Kressley, the conduit for the show’s best quips and its weirdest contradictions. Billed as the show’s fashion expert, he looks like one of those old-style queens who used to cuddle a miniature white poodle in one diamond-encrusted claw. One week he was wearing a shirt that looked like a badly mended quilt. Take his fashion advice and I can guarantee you’ll never get laid again, but the straight guys just eat it up, partly because it’s dispensed with such motherly enthusiasm.



“We’re not here to change you,” he says to one poor put-upon straight guy, italicizing the last two words with his fingers. “We’re here to make you better.”



He flings his arms about like Glinda the good witch of the east waving her wand, but his emotional tone is closer to Oprah. Like a parody of the self-help movement, Carson and crew enthuse about their charges’ progress and encourage them to emote. Do you love it? Does that sound like fun? It’s blood-curdlingly earnest and wildly funny.



Forget all that guff about this being a ground-breaking gay show. It’s solidly in the mainstream of American TV. Where it really breaks new ground is in making explicit the connection between shopping and self-improvement. Half self-help and half home-improvement, it’s Oprah meets the Designer Guys with a savage (and completely unintentional) subtext by way of Absolutely Fabulous.



Not since that British sitcom have I seen such a funny satire of modern consumerism. Irony-blind US viewers probably won’t get the joke, but then I’m not sure the producers do either. Advertisers clearly take this show very seriously. Product placements are everywhere. The one thing they don’t tell you is the price.



QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY.

11:45pm. Saturdays.

Beginning Oct 4.

Bravo.